In an increasingly environment-conscious world, recycling has become an essential aspect of our everyday lives. But how can recycling materials lead to environmental sustainability? Recycling leads to environmental sustainability by reducing the amount of waste that must be transported and treated at landfills or incinerators – saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
There are many good reasons to recycle. However, here are three core reasons everyone should know.
Conserves Natural Resources
Recycling is one of the leading solutions to conserve natural resources. This practice means using materials that have already been used once to make a new product. It reduces the need to extract raw materials from the earth, saving energy and other resources.
Recycling reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills or incinerators. Your trash will eventually be in an incinerator or landfill. If it stays in a landfill, it will stay there unless someone pays to remove it or burns it – causing more harm to the environment with nothing in return. Landfills also take valuable space that we could have used for agriculture.
Recycling reduces the unwanted expenses allocated for managing waste disposal. Recycling plants may use less electricity than garbage incinerators. Plus, incinerators do not produce anything valuable, but recycling does. Recycling may also reduce water use in manufacturing processes like paper mills and plastic production facilities.
How Most Recycling Processes Work
According to a poll by the Carton Council, over 94% of Americans support recycling, and 74% consider it a top priority. Unfortunately, only around 35% of the population actually recycles. Possible reasons for low levels of recycling are lack of knowledge, lack of recycling facilities, and the general inconvenience of recycling.
Recycling typically goes through four processes:
The first step in recycling is collecting recyclables. Individuals, communities, or businesses should identify and store recyclables separately from their trash. They can then send these to recycling plants or, in more stable and modern countries, have the recycling collector pick them up.
Once collected, recyclable items are sorted into categories such as aluminum cans, newspapers, glass, and plastic. The sorting process usually involves machines that can identify different materials based on their size and shape and then push them through a series of chutes (these chutes sometimes have cleaning mechanisms) into bins based on their material.
After sorting, many recyclables undergo further processing before they are deemed usable raw materials. For example, aluminum cans are shredded and then melted into sheets where we can use them again for manufacturing. This step also means creating a new product out of recycled raw materials.
After manufacturing, the products can be introduced again into the market or reused by the organization. Consumer and business demand for products that use recycled materials increases the economic viability of recycling, increasing the drive for everyone to recycle.
How the Industrial Sector Should Approach Recycling
The industrial sector contributes around 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste, a concerning number that continues to grow today. Organizations should adhere to strict recycling protocols to reduce their waste output. Here is waste hierarchy, and it should be at the heart of every company:
Organizations should always aim to reduce energy consumption and materials used in manufacturing. Before we even reach recycling, we should think about what can be reduced. If at all possible, manufacturing plants should eliminate redundant processes and aim for efficiency. To do that:
- Increase budget on product research and development
- Hire consultants and experts to revamp processes and correct faulty operating procedures
If all efforts have been exhausted to reduce energy consumption and material usage, the next step is to evaluate the reusability of byproducts. Instead of just throwing them away, finding a new purpose for them can be a far more profitable and efficient approach.
Intel repurposes defective CPUs by rebranding them as lower-end CPUs. When they manufacture their Intel Core lineup, they aim to produce as many of their high-end models as possible. The defective ones are not thrown away but rebranded as lower-end CPUs, e.g., faulty i7s become lower-generation i5s.
This practice saves them millions of dollars while still providing quality computers to the market.
Another example is how soy fiber (byproduct) becomes higher-quality flour. It’s not only defects that have a place in reusing or repurposing but also byproducts. Companies, regardless of their industry, should always aim for zero waste.
Last but not least is recycling. As much as possible, this should be a last resort because, unlike the two above, recycling requires energy. Nevertheless, it is in the company’s best interest to recycle whatever they can to further reduce their waste output.
What Is an Environmentally Sustainable Society?
An environmentally sustainable society can meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. It’s not just about recycling, electric cars, and solar panels. It’s also about how we live our lives, how we consume, and what we value.
How to Achieve Environmental Sustainability?
You can achieve environmental sustainability by taking steps to reduce your impact on the environment and working with organizations. Here are some ways in which you can achieve ecological sustainability:
- Reduce your energy use
- Use energy-efficient appliances
- Use renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines
- Conserve water by using low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucets or installing water-saving devices
- Recycle materials such as paper, glass, plastic beverage containers, aluminum foil, and tin cans instead of throwing them into landfills where they take centuries to decompose
How to Encourage Others to Recycle and Why
Recycling is a great habit to start and maintain, but getting others on board with your efforts can be challenging. However, it is possible, and here’s how to encourage others to recycle
- Educate your family and friends by sharing easy-to-digest videos freely available on YouTube
- Make it easier for them to start by demonstrating simple waste management disposal (have them categorize their trash)
- Invite people to community cleanups that require only 30 minutes of their time; this can be a simple catalyst that will convince them to become more conscious about their impact on the environment
Recycling is a duty, not a hobby. Not only does it save our planet, but it also saves landfill space and reduces energy consumption. Recycling starts at home, but it should be at every home to make an impact. Make a difference by recycling yourself, and encouraging others to do the same!